Thursday, October 16, 2003

Fire department reinstates chaplain

City manager intervenes, says incident wake-up call on racial tension

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati fire chaplain whose dismissal last week spotlighted the fire department's strained race relations was reinstated Wednesday after the city manager intervened.

The Rev. Mike Paraniuk will still wear the fire department uniform and patch, but he can no longer stay overnight in firehouses, according to the agreement announced at the end of City Council's meeting.

No one directly addressed the priest's involvement in tension between the Cincinnati African-American Firefighters Association and the Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union - the issue Chief Robert Wright said caused him to dismiss Paraniuk on Friday from the position. The joint statement said only that Paraniuk would "maintain the sanctity and confidentiality of his office."

Wright said he removed Paraniuk because the priest had become too embroiled in the debate between CAFA and Local 48, whose members have argued for years over how to repair race-relation issues.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie said the incident was a wake-up call about how inflamed racial tensions are within the department, and said she and Mayor Charlie Luken would personally try to mediate the problems between Local 48 and the African-American firefighters.

After his dismissal, Paraniuk - a chaplain at Children's Hospital Medical Center who also says Mass at Mother of Christ Church in Winton Hills and at Councilman Chris Monzel's parish, St. Bernard in Winton Place - fired back publicly, saying the chief was divisive.

"We have some fences to mend," Paraniuk said outside City Council chambers.

Gregory Korte contributed. E-mail

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